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2. Another important change in the same direction has taken place among a still larger body. The Wesleyan-Methodists, in John Wesley's days, were Churchmen,-irregular, indeed, but still ready to come to the Church's aid on any emergency. More recently, in the time of Dr. Jabez Bunting, the same tone and spirit prevailed; and on two or three memorable occasions, twenty or thirty years ago, the voice of the Methodist body was distinctly heard in Parliament, when the position of the Church seemed to be assailed.
Now, however, “Ritualism” has altered this state of things. Methodism has always been opposed to Romanism, and just in proportion as the Church seems to tend towards a reunion with Rome, does Methodism retreat from any fellowship with her. This was plainly avowed in the discussions at the Conference of the year 1868. It was openly declared, that so considerable a tendency Romewards was visible in the Church, that Methodism, instead of a friendly attitude, must take that of neutrality. But in such avowals as these, more is always implied than is distinctly expressed. When the leaders of the Society recommend neutrality, having heretofore professed friendship, the thousands and ten thousands of the laity will “better their advice," and go over into positive opposition. And so it has been found in the late general election. The one county in England where Methodism is, relatively, the strongest, was just the one county where no Conservative candidate, no friend of the Church, stood any chance. Methodism, which was friendly and assisting at the beginning of the present reign, is now rapidly ranging itself among the active foes of the Established Church. And Methodism, be it remembered, has a more numerous body of adherents than Congregational Dissent.
3. A similar change has taken place in North Britain. At the beginning of Queen Victoria's reign, Chalmers and Gordon and their companions had awakened the Church of Scotland to life and vigour, and that life and vigour was willingly put forth to aid and defend the sister English Establishment. Dr. Chalmers came up to London to lecture in Hanover Square
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into the Mass. A copy of this came into the hands of an excellent Baptist Minister, in the suburbs of the Metro. polis ;--, man of a more Catholic spirit than most of his kind. He took it up into the pulpit, read passages from it to his people, but then added, that the argument, which was sound and good, ought to have been carried further ;--for that, as the Church of Rome had changed the Lord's Supper into the Mass, so had the Church of England changed Believers' Baptisi
into Infant Sprinkling. He concluded by remarking, that he believed that “ if the Mass had slain its thousands, Baptismal Regeneration had slain its ten thousands." He probably did not see, or intend, the inference which his congregation would naturally draw,to wit,--That while Popery was very ob. jectionable, the Church of England was ten times more so; and that, to hate or oppose Popery would be a waste of time, seeing we had a much greater evil close to our own doors.
Rooms, in defence of the English Church, and Dr. Cumming's able services were always given in aid of his friends in England. Scotland, then, was an important ally of the Church of the southern kingdom.
But this, too, has all been changed. Sir James Graham withstood and alienated that body which was the chief life of the Scottish Church. He braved a secession which now numbers nine hundred congregations in Scotland ; not foreseeing, or not caring, that this large and active body would naturally, in one generation, become Dissenters; and would thus throw the weight of Scotland into the scale of Dissent in the aggregate. This sad change we have now seen. Had the question of “ dis-establishing the Irish Church” been mooted in 1840, Chalmers would have been able to range four-fifths of Scotland in one firm and vehement phalanx of opposition. But the present Free Church has almost forgotten Chalmers, and has largely departed from his principles. Being outside the National Church, its sympathies are chiefly with the Scotch Dissenters. Generally, through the realm of Scotland, the Free Churchmen, the United Presbyterians, and all other Dissenters and unbelievers, outnumber, when united, the members of the Church of Scotland. The result is, such a vote as never was seen in Scotland before. The whole kingdom has sent to Parliament fifty-two representatives instructed to vote for the demolition of the Irish Church, and only eight empowered to vote for its preservation. Nor is there much reason to hope that if the question shall next be the abolition of the Scottish Church, or of the English, the proportion of support and of opposition will be much altered.
4. In this general defection it was not probable that Wales would remain indifferent. It may be doubted whether the Welsh-speaking population of the Principality have any clear idea of what is meant by “the dis-establishment and disendowment of the Irish Church ;' but there can be no doubt that their preachers, the ministers of “the Calvinistic Methodists,” have taken up at least a very strong opinion on the subject; and have handled their people almost as the Romish priests of Ireland have been accustomed to handle theirs. Evidence of their zeal is tendered from many quarters. In Cardiganshire, voters were assured by their minister that “they had not a chance of being saved if they voted against Mr. - " In Carmarthenshire, voters were told that, voting for Mr. J. and Mr. P., “if they died, they would wake up in hell.” In Denbighshire, a preacher actually named Sir Watkin Wynn in the pulpit as a man who deserved the death of a criminal! And as a natural result, in the small circle of the twelve Welsh counties, five representatives were wrested, by
the efforts of the Dissenting preachers, from the ranks of the supporters of the Church, and added to the number of its opponents,
5. Of Ireland it is scarcely necessary to speak. The ques. tion being one which, to the Romish priests, was perfectly intelligible,-namely, whether they should get rid of the Protestant clergy, and have the population (except the large towns) entirely in their own hands; it was not to be wondered at that they should put forth all their power. So effectually was this. done, that the 45 Conservatives who represented Ireland in the last Parliament were reduced to 39; while the Liberals were augmented from 60 to 66; making a difference of 12 votes in every division. · On a retrospect, then, of the whole case, we remark that never before was such an issue raised by a great Parliamentary party, as this which Mr, Gladstone has raised in the past session. Never before has such a question as the abolition of one of the Established Churches of these kingdoms been placed before Parliament; and never before has there been such a combination of parties in its favour. Thirty years ago the greater part of the people of Scotland would have resisted such a proposal with indignation. Thirty years ago, the whole Wesleyan body would have come to the Church's aid: thirty years ago, Wales would have been either neutral or friendly. Now, Scotland and Wales throw their weight into the opposite scale; while Methodism talks of neutrality, but is, in fact, chiefly on the opponents' side. Thus, for the first time for centuries, the Church of England finds herself isolated at a moment of serious peril. Her sister Church in Scotland, no longer commanding a majority at home, can lend her no aid. The other Presbyterian communities in Scotland being, in fact, Dissenters, join in the cry of “Down with her, down with her, even to the ground !” while Welsh Dissent, and half the Presbyterianisin of Ireland, are equally hostile. “The United Church of England and Ireland”- thus beleaguered, and left without allies, finds herself in manifest peril; and wonders to find her chief enemy in one who, thirty years ago, was the foremost of all her defenders ;-one who, until some three years since, was the representative and the champion of her oldest University.
The object of the present “Watchman's cry" is then, first, plainly to confess, to set forth, and to explain, the extent and nature of this peri). The danger is very great; and though it is for the present limited to the Church of Ireland, all men can see that a great principle like that of a separation of Church and State, cannot be adopted by the Legislature of the country, without speedily becoming of general application. A Dissenting preacher has just been returned for one of the
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Welsh boroughs, who has plainly asserted in a daily journal, that the claims of Wales to “dis-establishment and dis-endowment” are quite as strong as those of Ireland. His conclusion, therefore, is, that he and his friends in Wales will first cordially assist Mr. Gladstone in pulling down the Irish Church, and will then proceed to show him, by the convincing argument of facts, that he cannot refuse to pull down the Church in Wales also. And all the English Dissenters, with one voice, declare their conviction that the Church Establishments of the three kingdoms are equally doomed. Nor is this conviction found exclusively among Dissenters. Dean Alford, in a recent number of the Contemporary Review, observes :“As far as we can forecast, it is going to be history over again..... The case of Ireland, they tell us, is altogether sui generis. We shall see. Let the main proposition be affirmed, and, whether we fear it or hope it, the corollary is sure to follow.” What is the “main proposition” in the present case? It is, that “religious equality” is a right; and that where religious equality does not exist, a wrong, an injustice, is done to the excluded—the disregarded party. If this principle be admitted, the Church of England inflicts ten thousand wrongs on Dissenters on every side. Two men in a town are equal in merits, education, and ability. Each has an attached congregation, each is doing good. But the one is “the Rector of the Parish,” has a right to the Chair at all parish meetings, claims tithes and Easter-offerings; while the other is merely “the Dissenting Minister”-in the eye of the law, a nobody. This is not equality. Are we to set about “equal. izing" at once? If not, why not?
Such is the practical question before us. And what, then, is the conclusion to which we desire to point our readers ? Is it despair ?-is it capitulation ? Not in the least. Thoroughly recognizing the peril, and desiring that no one should make light of it, we still find elements of comfort and of encouragement. While we examine and compute the enemy's strength, and acknowledge it to be very great, there are grounds of hope, and reasons for persevering resistance. Chiefly we shall allude to two.
The practical peril which immediately threatens the Irish Church, obviously is, that more than half of the members of the new House of Commons have been returned upon distinct pledges, that they will support Mr. Gladstone's proposal. We see, therefore, more than 350 members of that House ready to pass a Bill for “ disestablishment and disendowment,” as soon as it is placed before them.
But just as clear, just as certain, is it that in the other House of Parliament there is quite as large a majority of peers who
look on the proposal as a sacrilegious and detestable one. On the surface, therefore, these two facts confront each other;-a great preponderance of opinion in one House FOR; and an equal preponderance in the other House AGAINST. The assailants and defenders balance each other. So long as this state of things continues, the Church of Ireland will not be “disestablished."
But then despairing voices are heard, sadly demanding, “Do yon suppose that the House of Lords will venture to place itself doggedly in the way of the popular will, as uttered by the House of Commons, and as enforced by such a general election as that which has just been held ?”
Our answer is three-fold. First, we say, that if the House of Lords is not to be an entity, a real and substantial thing, then the sooner it is cleared out of the way the better. But if it be, what the constitution supposes it, a deliberative assembly, with the power and function of freely forming and expressing an opinion,-then each member bas a plain duty from which he cannot escape—that of trying to understand and to weigh each matter placed before him, and to give a conscientious vote, in accordance with his judgment.
Secondly, we say that, thirty years ago, an Appropriation Clause, despoiling the Church of Ireland, was again and again carried through the House of Commons. But the House of Lords again and again rejected it; and at last Lord John Russell dropped it, and the opposition of the Peers was successful. On other questions, of Jewish Emancipation, ChurchRates, &c., the two Houses have remained at variance for five, seven, or ten years, until terms of compromise have been proposed. And, in the third place, wo point to a similar result, as one which may reasonably be expected to follow, if the Upper House does not, in groundless panic or unreasonable despair, resolve to abdicate its functions. As to the popular outcry, the anger of the million, it is the last thing that any thinking man will dread. A House of Lords which calmly and fearlessly does its duty will always be respected by the people. If that House ever is swept away by a popular outburst, it will be because it has proved itself effete, timorous, and incapable of maintaining its rights.
Our remaining reliance, however, is on something of a different kind; on something not so visible and tangible. We can never allow Despair to enter, when we feel assured that we are resting upon Truth. The Church of Ireland can be defended, and ought to be defended, by solid and irrefragable arguments drawn from Holy Scripture. If this were not the case, we should care little for the issue of the present conflict. But, believing that we have the truth on our side, we engage in thọ
Vol. 63.- No. 373.